Hell is Paved with Good … Motives?

Now that we are all experts in the sphere of interpersonal relations and the general problem of misunderstanding, it’s time to talk about another type of conflict, which is the intrapersonal variety.

As I stated in the previous article, intrapersonal conflict is, in essence, arguing with oneself. Sometimes this is even more harmful and self-destructive than conflicts with friends, colleagues, or family because you’re always your own worst opponent.

We are all different. Some of us are too self-critical, others feel that they have to do everything ‘right’ and are always under pressure, and some people are scared of making choices on their own. I have listed just a few examples of intrapersonal conflicts to show that they are familiar to everyone, and there is nothing wrong with being worried about something that is important only to you.

There are three types of intrapersonal conflict:

  • role conflict,
  • motivation conflict,
  • and cognition conflict.

Role conflicts were described in detail in my last article, so this time I’m going to tell you more about motivation conflict.

Motivation conflict, like the conflict of motives, arises from the individual’s willingness, or unwillingness, to take a particular action. It is important for both of these motives to be equally worthy or unpleasant. Otherwise, the conflict would not make any sense. Let’s take a brief look at some options.

You have to make a choice between two attractive but mutually exclusive alternatives. Do you remember the case of Buridan’s ass? To make a long story short, it’s a hypothetical situation where a donkey finds himself right between two absolutely identical piles of hay, and he is really hungry. It is assumed that a donkey will go to the closest pile, but that doesn’t work here as the distance to the left pile and the right pile is the same.

The donkey dies, being incapable of making a choice.

The situation when you want to have it all can be truly dramatic. Actually, I have a personal story, which happened a few days ago, to share with you. My favorite rock band came to the city for a concert, and I bought a ticket with a guy I barely know (I’ll call him Alex).

We bought two cheap tickets because he isn’t a groupie, and I didn’t want to go there alone. One day before the show I found out that a friend decided to go, too. Her ticket (let’s call her Olivia) was much better than the tickets Alex and I had bought.

Olivia arrived at the concert venue four hours before the show to take place in the queue and found me another fan-zone ticket. While we were standing there, Alex called me to say he would be really late. I was so confused. On the one hand, I had a deal with Alex:  we were going to watch the show together.

On the other hand, he was late, and he always knew that I wanted to have a better view during the performance. So the choice was: friendship or standing close to the stage? And I chose the second option. I knew that he would come so late that we wouldn’t meet even if we had the same tickets.

There was such a crowd of people! However, I didn’t have any guarantees that I would be really close to the band, I only had a chance to try. And the risk was worth it. I was standing right in the first line, and the frontman asked me and Olivia to come on stage while he sang the last song! We were there with him and the whole band, dancing and singing.

And I never heard from Alex again. Honestly, I don’t even regret how things turned out.

Another type of motivation conflict is when you have two equally unattractive options. You have to make a decision, but you know you won’t be satisfied no matter what you choose.

Let me give you another example. Rick and Jordan’s marriage is almost ruined. They have a little daughter who loves her daddy very much. Jordan says: «If you want to get a divorce, you’ll never see your daughter again». What should Rick do? Keep living in a family without love or stop spending time with his only daughter?

It’s logical to choose the less awful option, but everyone involved would be hurt, disappointed, and sad. We wish we were never called upon to make these choices.

The third type is when you have only one option which is equally attractive and unpleasant at the same time. How is this possible? That is, in my opinion, the most common type of motivation conflict. There are some benefits and disadvantages in every crucial situation we face.

Studying abroad? Changing a job? Moving away from your parents? You always face pros and cons, and there’s no ‘right’ answer to your questions.

Do you remember the amazing TV show «Friends»? There was a line when one of the main characters, Rachel, was offered a job in Paris, while all of her friends, family, even the father of her daughter were living in New York.

This is the first type of motivation conflict, the so-called «approach – approach» dilemma. Staying with her friends and flying to Paris are equally attractive options. Rachel’s decision depended on her priorities only: family or career first.

Another character, Chandler, had an «avoidance – avoidance» conflict. His fiancéewanted to have a beautiful wedding that would cost all of his money. Chandler couldn’t upset her, but at the same time he knew they could spend the money on their home, their future, and some immediately pressing needs. He knew that he would make his fiancée feel bad one way or the other, it was only a question of which way.

In the end, he decided to celebrate. Later the happy couple would have an «approach – avoidance» conflict: they found a perfect house outside the city. It was just right for them and their children, but their friends lived in the heart of New York. Monica and Chandler couldn’t imagine their lives without having their friends nearby. The question of leaving versus staying wasn’t that easy.

It’s fine to be worried about something that matters to you only. But it’s also important not to overreact because overreaction can lead to stress, depression, and psychological imbalance.

Our adequate understanding of our situation is the real key to becoming a winner in every complicated issue. Next time I’ll tell you about cognition intrapersonal conflict, so we’ll be able to learn more about solving it.

Photo: Shutterstock

Read more about good motives here.          

Defining Modern Motivation: Not Enough To Be But To Become?

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